Swirl Wine Bar & Market

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Break From the Sweltering Heat

Greetings from the green hills of central Pennsylvania! I snuck out of town for a few days to visit family and have been enjoying 70 degree temperatures at a beautiful lake where my parents have a summer cottage. Internet connections are scarce, so this will be brief...

I flew into “Happy Valley” home of Penn State, JoePa and the Nittany Lions where I got my bachelor’s degree way too many years ago. It was great driving through the quaint town of State College, seeing some of my favorite old haunts and new businesses that have popped up in familiar spots. We lucky enough to catch a Farmer’s Market on one of the side streets so we pulled over to pick up some of the local flavors! State College is right near the heart of Amish country in central Pa, so most of the stalls featured Amish produce and goods. Incredible cucumbers, kale, carrots, raspberries, blue berries, homemade ice cream and dairy products, lots of fresh baked goods and more lined the sloping street.

My nieces Rika and Hannah were with us so of course we couldn’t pass up the Amish homemade ice cream stand. I opted for a freshly home brewed Kombucha tea while the rest of the family walked away with creamy vanilla cones from which I promptly took a bit from each one. We picked up lots of fresh greens and tomatoes and headed back to the car to finish the drive to Huntingdon.

One of the things I get most excited about when I come home is my mother’s homemade beef noodle soup, an old recipe handed down for generations in the Slovenian community she grew up in called Bon Air in Cambria County, Pa. My mother knows how much I love it, so there is always a huge pot waiting every time I come home. It is a simple beef and vegetable broth made with tomatoes, carrots, celery and onions and finished off with egg noodles. Comforting and delicious, I make it at home often using my grandmother's old soup pot, but somehow it never tastes as good as it does in my mother's kitchen. Unfortunately my niece Hannah likes is just as much, so I had to share quite a bit with her that night.

And keeping in line with our Slovenian heritage that night, my mother also fixed a few perogies made by their friend Tony. Perogies are kind of like a dumpling that is stuffed with potatoes and cheese, boiled and then browned in a skillet with butter and onions. Although he’s still trying to perfect his recipe, it’s hard to go wrong with dough, butter, onions, cheese and potatoes! The flavors melted in my mouth and brought back lots of childhood memories!

The next morning I went for a walk in the woods and there is just something different in the air here, the lack of humidity makes for a clean freshness so unlike the warm wet blanket we encounter outdoors at home. The colors are different as well, a dark lush foresty green covers the hills as opposed to our brighter more tropical plant life. They've been getting a lot of rain here lately so the ground is moist and ripe for fungi. I learned that Pennsylvania is mushroom heaven for those who know what they are doing which unfortunately I don't. But I saw at least 10 different species on my walk and will be sure to bring a guide book with me on my next visit!

We put the boat in the water later in the day, but the weather brought us back to shore early to prepare our Independence Day dinner of traditional American fare; grilled steaks, hot dogs, salad, baked potatoes and crisp, cool watermelon. Hope you all are having a great holiday weekend!!

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